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Birmingham African American Leaders Go ‘Back to School’ to Give Back in Volunteer Day of Service


Woods_Calvin_wm Joe Dickson Jeanette Jones
Schools                                                                         History Makers
Green Acres Middle School                                Rev. Calvin Wallace Woods, Sr.
South Hampton Elementary School                        Rev. Gwendolyn Webb
Malachi Wilkerson Middle School                                   Joe Dickson
John Herbert Phillips Academy                                  Jeanette Jones


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CHICAGO – What does service mean in the African American community? To Reverend Calvin Wallace Woods, Sr., it means advocating for human and civil rights, while spreading a diligent message of faith, for over fifty years. To social activist Gwendolyn Webb, it means using the civil rights activism of her childhood to inspire a decades-long fight against racism, poverty, violence, and domestic violence. It means advocating for minorities’ rights to civil rights activist Joe Dickson, or breaking barriers for women in science to biologist Dr. Jeanette Jones.
On September 26, these four leaders will join hundreds of other African American HistoryMakers across the nation for a day of service during the 5th Annual Back to School With The HistoryMakers program, as they return to classrooms to encourage students to COMMIT to excellence and finishing their education. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is chairing the nationwide effort with the goal of having more than 400 Black leaders go “back to school” in 61 cities and 30 states. The program puts HistoryMakers in direct contact with over 25,000 students across the nation, to inspire them with their life’s stories and to encourage youth to strive for excellence. The theme of the day is “COMMIT.” The HistoryMakers will personally recount their own school experiences, reflect upon the struggles they encountered on their paths to success and, most importantly, encourage students to COMMIT to their education.
“It makes a difference to hear a message of positive choices from successful, caring adults whom the students can relate to,” says a teacher from the program. The HistoryMakers Founder and Executive Director, Julieanna Richardson, states, “By bringing these living leaders into today’s educational system, we are raising awareness about the achievements of the accomplished African Americans in local communities and bringing these leaders into schools to see things firsthand, while providing important role models for today’s youth. ”
Richardson is encouraging educators everywhere to use The HistoryMakers’ digital archive (http://www.thehistorymakers.com/digital-archive) to enrich their students’ exposure to the contributions of African Americans across the globe. This year, schools participating in the event will receive a free one-year membership for the digital archive, which includes extensive and easy-to-access interviews with over 700 HistoryMakers. In addition to providing schools with access to this unique educational tool, Back to School With The HistoryMakers is also taking a crucial step towards transforming the nation’s political and social landscape, according to Richardson.
“It is important that the community talks; intergenerational dialogue is important, because something has been lost,” says Richardson. “Students should see role models and understand their stories, or else there will be more Missouris.”
Among the HistoryMakers participating that day in Birmingham schools:
Rev. Calvin Wallace Woods, Sr. began working with Reverends Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ralph Abernathy in 1962. The following year, he participated in the March on Washington. In 1965, Woods protested Birmingham’s voter registration procedures under the leadership of Reverend Edward Gardner. At the age of 72 in 2006 he took over leadership of the Birmingham SCLC. Rev. Woods will go back to Green Acres Middle School.
Rev. Gwendolyn Webb participated in the Children’s Marches in Birmingham in 1963, playing a key role in the desegregation of the city. She later became a pastor and founded Foot Soldiers International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the eradication of racism, violence, domestic violence and poverty. Webb will go back to South Hampton Elementary School.
Joe Dickson formed his own real estate and construction company during the 1970s before becoming president of the Alabama Republican Council for a number of years. He was asked to work for the former governor of Alabama, Guy Hunt, as the assistant of minority affairs in 1988. Dickson began working with the Birmingham World newspaper in 1987, and in 1989 returned to run the paper. He will go back to Malachi Wilkerson Middle School.
Dr. Jeanette Jones became the first female appointed as the vice president of research and development at Alabama A & M University, and was later named director of that institution’s Center for Biomedical, Behavioral and Environmental Research. In 2004 she was reappointed as a member of the U.S. Army Science Board under U.S. Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey. Jones will go back to John Herbert Phillips Academy.

Last year’s successful Back to School With The HistoryMakers program sent over 300 of our HistoryMakers into schools in 61 cities and 30 states, including stage and television actress T’Keyah Crystal Keymah, stage and television actor the late James Avery, and singer Otis Williams. Many of the HistoryMakers have now adopted a school, one of the goals of the initiative.
The HistoryMakers, the nation’s largest African American video oral history archive, is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit dedicated to recording and preserving the personal histories of well-known and unsung African Americans. It was announced this year by James Billington, the Librarian of Congress that the Library of Congress will serve as the permanent repository for The HistoryMakers Collection. Added Billington, “The HistoryMakers archive provides invaluable first-person accounts of both well-known and unsung African-Americans, detailing their hopes, dreams and accomplishments – often in the face of adversity, this culturally important collection is a rich and diverse resource for scholars, teachers, students and documentarians seeking a more complete record of our nation’s history and its people.” To date, the organization has interviewed over 2,000 HistoryMakers, with the goal of creating an archive of 5,000 interviews (30,000 hours) for the establishment of a one-of-a-kind digital archive.
For more information, visit The HistoryMakers website at www.thehistorymakers.com, and 
The HistoryMakers Education page at http://www.thehistorymakers.com/education.